DATE:
6-20-2021

Loop
~ 3 mile

ELEVATION GAIN:
~ 700 ft

LOCATION:
Bryson City, NC

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Bryson City is a town rich with history, however not all of its history has a favorable ending. The Road to Nowhere is a landmark that reminds longtime locals of government promises left unkept. During Word War II, the Fontana Dam and lake were created as part of the TVA project. The dam and lake’s construction forced hundreds of people out of their homes and communities. They were promised a road leading to old family cemeteries called Lakeview Drive. However, due to environmental barriers, this road was never completed. It now ends at a tunnel that is 365 ft long. The locals began calling this, “the road to nowhere,” which it is still referred to as today. A handful of hiking trails with gorgeous views of Fontana Lake now lie beyond the tunnel. You can read more about The Road to Nowhere here.

View from an overlook on the way to the tunnel ⬆️

We were able to put, “the road to nowhere,” in Apple Maps to get there. Some things we read said that the road will be referred to as, “Lakeview Drive,” on some maps. The parking area is large and there was plenty of room for extra cars when we got there.

Just past the parking lot, the paved road continues on to the tunnel. However, there is a gate blocking vehicle access to this part of the road, so you are able to use it as a trail. Something to take note of is that dogs are not allowed on these trails. We also could not find this trail on the “All Trails” app when we went. Below is a picture of the trail from an online brochure for the trail.

There is a man-made trail leading up to the top of the tunnel, but there is a lot of poison ivy up there so be mindful of that. Once you get midway into the tunnel it is pretty dark. We had one small flashlight and used our cell phones. This was just enough to keep an eye out for the horse droppings throughout the tunnel, but it would have been helpful for each kid to have their own flashlight.

When you exit the tunnel, you will follow the Lakeshore trail for ~.6 miles until you see signs for the Goldmine Loop.

The trail is well kept with views of the mountains peeking through the trees along the way. There are a couple of spots where you will cross small amounts of water, but nothing you would need water shoes for.

There are signs at the forks in the trail. You will continue following the Goldmine Loop all the way to Fontana Lake. There is a small cleared area right beside the lake. There was no one around when we went, (this may have been because we went on Father’s Day), so we sat lakeside to have lunch and play for a few minutes.

Two out of three of our boys were having a really tough time at the beginning of this trail. Not because the trail was hard at all, but because they were just not particularly in the hiking mood. One of our boys was happy as can be to be out there, so you never know what you will get on a trail with multiple kids. We just keep encouraging them and taking lots of breaks…and of course, snacks! Stopping for lunch is always a good reset for the whole crew. They all did really well after that point. We were thankful they had a mental shift because there was a pretty decent climb at the very end. They did it without anyone complaining at all. It’s amazing what a little lunch break will do.

A couple parts of the trails were muddy/wet but planks of wood were placed along the trail to help navigate these areas.

At the top of the ascent, you will connect back to Lakeshore trail. There will be a sign there that points you back to the Lakeview Drive trail head.

There is so much beautiful wildlife along this trail. The boys found a snail shell, frog, lizard, and lots of lovely flowers/plants.

This is an excellent trail to check out if you are in the Bryson City area. The Appalachian trail also comes through Bryson City. We didn’t do any sections of it while we were there. More to come on our visit to Bryson City soon!

Nature finds to look for:

DISCLAIMER: We use the “Picture This” app to help identify plants we find along the trail combined with our own nature books and study. We are by no means experts and might get it wrong sometimes! Please do not take any of our suggestions as text book or ingest anything based on what we share. Our nature finds are also based on the season in which we did our hike. If you hike the same trail in a different season, you might find totally different plants. If you notice any mistakes in our identification, please feel free to contact us and let us know so we can update it ASAP! Thank you and happy exploring!